Like many of his fans, my son became interested in illustrator Quentin Blake and his work through reading Roald Dahl’s books. Over time, Blake’s whimsical drawings caught my son’s attention more and more and led us to exploring his life and work through a Quentin Blake Unit Study.
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Interested in exploring Quentin Blake and his art with your kids? I’ve got biographical information, reading and video suggestions, and extension activities to share with you here. Let’s take a look:
Quentin Blake Unit Study
My kids and I loved learning about Quentin Blake’s career and how he’s inspired people all over the world to read and draw. Here’s what we’ve learned in our research.
Background & Early Years
Quentin Blake was born in the United Kingdom on December 16, 1932, but little information is available about his childhood and formative years. We do know, however, that he remembers drawing from an early age and that he was influenced by an English teacher to be involved in literature. We also know that he published his first drawing in Punch, a British magazine, at the age of sixteen.
We found it interesting that Blake published his first drawing at an early age, but started his university years with a different focus. According to his biography on QuentinBlake.com, he studied English and received teaching credentials and eventually received non-vocational instruction from Chelsea Art School.
After graduating from college, Blake continued to submit drawings to Punch and other publications while working as a teacher. During his twenty-plus years as an educator, he taught English in France and illustration at England’s Royal College of Art.
Since he continued to freelance after submitting his first drawing, there’s quite a bit of overlap in Blake’s career as a teacher and professional illustrator and author. His Wikipedia entry showed us that his time at the Royal College of Art continued into the 80s, but he began illustrating books in 1960.
As of 2006, Blake has illustrated more than 300 books. Of those 300 books, 35 are his own and 18 of them are Roald Dahl’s books. As you can see, it would take quite some time to view all of Blake’s work!
The Legacy of Quentin Blake
Although he’s best known for his illustrations in children’s books, Quentin Blake’s work is also showcased in galleries and healthcare facilities across the UK and France.
Blake has gone on to receive numerous awards for his contributions to art and literature. Those prestigious recognitions include being named the first ever Children’s Laureate in 1999, receiving several honorary degrees in the United Kingdom, and being knighted in 2013.
Through his illustration work and love for drawing, Quentin Blake continues to challenge, inspire, and equip others to pursue his passion. He’s an advocate of art and literacy and is a longtime supporter the House of Illustration, The Big Draw, and Children in the Arts, among other art-centered charities. All of these organizations work to encourage a love of the arts in the United Kingdom.
Quentin Blake Unit Study: What to Read
I usually integrate kid-friendly biographies into our unit studies, but that wasn’t possible this time. While there is a Quentin Blake biography out there, In the Theatre of the Imagination is geared toward adults.
Instead of focusing on biographical reading, we opted to focus on his gift of imagination and artistic contributions. We did that by exploring his picture books and some of his more art-focused books. Here’s what we read with our Quentin Blake unit study:
- Tell Me a Picture
- Words and Pictures
- Mrs. Armitage: Queen of the Road
- Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art
You can certainly see Blake in action by checking into the books listed above, but it would be wrong to do a Quentin Blake unit study without exploring his best-known work: Roald Dahl’s books.
You can pick up pretty much any of Dahl’s beloved children’s books and see how Blake’s illustrations make the stories come alive. In fact, he illustrated all of Dahl’s books except one.
Quentin Blake Unit Study: What to Watch
We also worked our way through several interesting videos during our Quentin Blake Unit Study. Some were candid interviews, some drawing videos, and some showcased his studio and work.
I also came across this grouping of Quentin Blake interviews. You can hear him discuss his time in school, career, and other topics through this listing of 65 video segments.
Quentin Blake Unit Study:
Additional Resources and Activities
Build on your Quentin Blake Unit Study by going beyond books and video clips. Here are some great resources to help you continue learning about Blake and his work.
- There are lots of things to keep you busy on Quentin Blake’s official website, but I especially recommend checking out the Fun & Free section, Gallery, and About Drawing areas.
- My son has been eyeing Drawing: For the Artistically Undiscovered for months now. While he hasn’t actually worked with it yet, he’s getting it for Christmas this year and I’ve already flipped through it. This workbook contains illustrations from Blake himself and suggested drawing exercises and perspective to help young artists.
- 3-Step sketching tutorial from Quentin Blake (Pin it here)
- Using Quentin Blake’s drawings as inspiration – This free 12-page download is available once you register with Access Art. I wasn’t thrilled about having to register, but it’s a great download.
- Free lesson plans from Teaching Ideas to go along with some of Quentin Blake’s books.
I hope you and your kids enjoy learning about Quentin Blake as much as we have. If you come across any resources of your own in your study, I’d love for you to share them with me in the comments below.
This Quentin Blake Unit Study is part of the December Birthdays Linkup from iHomeschool Network. Hop on over and take a look.